Emily Tiplady-Ead, winner of the Children’s Social Worker of the Year award in 2016, recalls one of her most memorable weeks in social work
I start my week on duty and immediately I’m presented with a crisis. A placement has broken down over the weekend. The allocated social worker is on annual leave and therefore it is the job of the duty worker to respond to this situation. The day is a chaotic haze of phone calls and emails. I complete a mountain of paperwork regarding the child, which is not an easy task as I have never met her. Finally, at 5.15pm an emergency place is identified, but it’s 50 miles away. I drive the 14-year-old to the placement and settle her in. On the way home I think about how lonely and anxious she must have felt today, taken to a strange home by a social worker she had never met before. I feel terribly sad for her and the situation she is now in.
I spend the day in court at a final hearing. I’m required to give evidence. I’ve been a social worker for four and a half years now, and during that time I have gained lots of experience in court. I feel reasonably calm, but there’s always some anxiety too.
I’ve worked really hard with this family, and I’m confident that my recommendation of reuniting them under a supervision order is the right one. But I’m also aware it is unusual in a case of an infant with an inflicted injury.
The judge thoroughly tests out the reasoning for my recommendation. It’s a long, tough day and emotions are running high for everyone by the end. On the drive home, I reflect upon my oral evidence and feel cross as I have suddenly thought of so many more reasoned and articulate answers. It’s so easy when you’re not in the box.
I spend the morning writing final evidence. I am recommending a placement order for a baby. I think long and hard about my recommendation and consider why I am proposing such a draconian measure. Sadly, my assessment has highlighted that there is no safe way to return the baby. It’s such a big decision to make and although I believe adoption is in the child’s best interests, I am acutely aware of the devastating impact this will have upon his birth parents.
Later I return to court to hear the judgement from yesterday’s case. The judge supports my care plan and the child is to be returned home. The family are ecstatic. I feel pleased and relieved but apprehensive too. I’m very aware that there are no guarantees, I just hope that the right decision was made and the child will go on to have the best possible life.
This afternoon I make a routine visit to a family. The mother becomes frustrated with me because she is on a low housing band but wants to move as soon as possible. She can’t understand why I am unable to make this happen for her. She becomes angry and shouts. I’m worried because the child is present and so I stay calm and try to deescalate the situation. I’m unsuccessful. She tells me to leave and never come back, because I never help her. I feel disappointed about this and wonder if I really do make a difference for the families I work with. As I head home, her words are echoing in my ears.
I’m looking forward to a celebration hearing today for a six-year-old. She’s bubbly and excited when we arrive, and proudly shows off her new dress bought for the occasion. She enjoys the hearing, as do her adoptive parents, and the judge makes a fuss of her. Photos are taken, happy tears are shed. Now it’s time for me to say farewell to this family.
As the little girl hugs me goodbye, she says “thank you for finding me a new mummy and daddy”. Its moments like this that keep me doing this job. I do make a difference! This week had the potential to be deemed as one of the most challenging, but in five seconds that’s suddenly changed and I now consider this to be my best week.
Social Worker of the Year Awards 2017
The awards celebrate the achievements of individual social workers and social work teams practising in England, with 17 different categories across children’s and adults’ services. The entry deadline for this year’s event is 5pm on Friday 21 July. Visit the website for more information and to download an entry form.